In 1973, the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade determined that the current laws in place criminalizing abortions, except in the event that the mother’s life is at risk, is unconstitutional in regards to right to privacy. The attacks on women’s right to choose have not ceased. To kick off 2016, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed an informed consent bill into law. This bill, introduced by Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams forces women to have an information session about risks and alternatives with a medical professional 24 hours before the procedure. “The importance of a face-to-face medical consultation prior to consenting to a surgical procedure is a widely accepted medical standard of care – and Kentucky woman deserve no less,” Raque said (Legislation Research Commission, 2015). A few months later, HEA 1337 moved through Indiana. This bill, authored by Republican representative Casey Cox, states that fetuses not carried to term, whether abortion or miscarriage, are required to be cremated or have a burial. Finally, and most recently, Oklahoma effectively banning abortions except in the case that the mother’s life is in danger. The bill however gives no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The bill’s sponsor, Republican senator Nathan Dahm, said that the bill was to “protect life” (Chokshi, 2016). The doctors who do not abide run the risk of losing their medical licenses. This essay will examine the negative effects of the public sphere overlapping with the personal sphere. In this case, the public sphere refers to the government, the personal sphere refers to individual women, and the technical sphere includes medical professionals.
A mostly patriarchal government is constantly making strides to dictate women’s healthcare and the choices regarding her body. These legislations are frequently, if not always, rooted in Christian biblical principles. These bills ignore the diversity of our nation and directly attack a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. While Roe v. Wade made great strides for the rights of women, it still leaves much to be desired. The ruling still leaves room for government involvement. In the case of the first trimester, if the woman wants to get an abortion, the judgement rests with her physician. In the second trimester, the state’s interest is legitimate under the guise of having the mother’s best interest at heart. In the third trimester, the state can intervene on behalf of the “potential of human life” (Lewis, 2015). While Roe v. Wade isn’t perfect, it does legalize abortion. Republic lawmakers continue to rage against it, despite the legal commonplace of stare decisis. A woman’s body and any decisions involved should be that of the woman’s to make. Government or religious institutions do not need to be involved.
Common sense tells us that a person’s right to choose what they want for their life seems like a basic human right. While Republicans will be the first to dismiss gun regulation laws based on this notion, they don’t look at women’s health care in the same fashion. In fact, if we’re being honest, one could say that they don’t look at women as people at all, but rather incubators. If these pro-life supporters looked beyond their narrow minded interpretations of scriptures they would see that there are many reasons why their arguments do not hold water. Firstly, we can look at the Constitution, the document that Republicans love to rave about. The Constitution speaks to rights to privacy and bodily autonomy (Justia, 2016). The 14th amendment talks about protection under the laws and privacy rights, it was paramount in the decision of Roe v. Wade. The ninth amendment says that just because rights aren’t specifically granted in the constitution, doesn’t mean that they are denied to citizens either (Legal Information Institute, 2016). The first amendment also sets the separation of church and state in place. Pro-life supporters often use Christian principles as support for their anti-abortion arguments. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb”—Jeremiah 1:5 and “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed”—excerpt from Psalm 82 ( are just a few of the favorites one can hear shouted from the sidewalks at abortion clinics. From my own personal experience escorting patients into the Louisville clinic, reductio ad absurdum is a frequent commonplace employed by the pro-life protestors. They make claims that range from religious, to accusations of murder, to telling black patients that the clinics are funded by the KKK. The scientifically incorrect anti-abortion propaganda with bloody fetuses frequently accompanies their belief that the unborn child is a person with rights. While there is no clear consensus of when life begins, in title 8 chapter 12 of the United States Code, citizens of the United States are considered this after birth. Each qualification listed stipulates that it is after a person is born (Legal Information Institute, 2016). But usually, if the Constitution doesn’t help the pro-lifers out, the next line of defense is that God’s law is the only law. Maybe the legislators have a hard time including women in what we call basic, human rights, because of the engendered language.
G.T Goodnight (1982) breaks up society into spheres which he defines as “branches of activity”. The personal/private sphere is more individualized or only applies to the participants involved. The public is like society, transcending the private and technical, almost all encompassing. The technical sphere is less accessible to the general public because it is more specialized. He talks about sphere overlap as well, it is a regular occurrence. But it raises the question—how far is too far? In the instance of the abortion debate, we can see an overlap of the public sphere into the personal sphere. The public sphere also seems to be compromising the technical sphere, or completely ignoring it. As I stated before, the public sphere wishes to dictate the personal sphere in matters of women’s health care, namely abortion. These legislations are based in religious principle. A reasonable argument would be that both a woman’s choices and religion are both matters for the personal sphere. Women’s health care and options therein are a matter of the technical sphere. We could also talk about sphere dependence. Most rational people would accept doctor expertise. It takes a great deal of intelligence and effort to get an M.D. tacked on to the end of your name. But if we look at these fanatical pro-life groups, we will see that there is a distortion of the abortion procedure, the size of the fetus in reference to the time of termination, and the “repercussions” on the woman.
While abortion is currently legal, the status quo, for centuries, has been that women aren’t capable of making their own decisions. If we look back the early 1900s first wave feminism, we’ll see that women were denied basic legal rights, like voting. Women were not seen as fit to decide their public officers, if they attended college it was thought they were only seeking a husband and were not awarded a degree, they couldn’t own property or keep their children in the event of a failed marriage. There were no women’s clinics or educational material about pregnancy prevention. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was not pro-abortion by any means. In her book, “A Case for Birth Control”, she depicts several tragic deaths of impoverished women who had unsafe abortions (Sanger, 1917). Today the problem still persists. There is a stigma surrounding talking and being educated about sex. 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence. 26 state sex education programs emphasize abstinence alone (Beadle, 2012). We tell teens and adolescents drowning in hormones and observing our hypersexualized media that “not doing it” is the best way to go. Thankfully, as of this April, California ow offers birth control over the counter with the passing of Senate Bill 493 (Johnson, 2016).
The harms that will occur if we make abortion illegal are insurmountable. Many pro-life supporters argue that adoption is also an option. While it is, they fail to notice that as of 2013 the total number of children waiting to be adopted, whether foster care or orphanages, was just over 100,000 (Child Welfare, 2013). Also, placing the child for adoption doesn’t accomplish what the woman truly wants: not to be pregnant. The women who use birth control want the same thing, but are far less criminalized just because they have access to resources. We must make these resources available to everyone. A study from the Guttmacher Institute showed that 47,000 women in developing countries die of complications from unsafe abortions. The study showed that the legality of abortion bore no correlation to the number of procedures occurring (Culp-Ressler, 2012).
The best course of action would be for the government and lawmakers to remove their personal beliefs from the personal choices of women. Planned Parenthood, rape crisis centers, and abortion clinics need to remain open and protected. Another argument arises that tax dollars should not fund abortions. Currently their funds come from government grants and contracts (only 1/3), Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid. Abortion procedures only make up 3% of the services offered at Planned Parenthood. In fact, a majority of Planned Parenthood patients are there for cancer screenings, STD tests, and contraception. Legally, Planned Parenthood cannot use federal government dollars for abortions. The Hyde Amendment restricts Medicaid funding unless it is a case of rape, incest, or the mother’s life is at risk (Robertson and Morse, 2011).
A familiar pro-choice slogan is “no uterus, no opinion”. But this pervasive idea that masculinity is the dominant characteristic fights this. For millennia society has favored men over women, put them in charge over women, and paid them more than women. These old, rich, Republican white men are on a power trip because they’ve never been told any differently. Despite our advances in the last forty years, women are still seen as the lesser sex. These men do not understand the struggle women face because they have never had to struggle. Then, when confronted with their privilege, they become irate that they too are persecuted in “some ways”. The legislators need to understand that they cannot prevent abortions, they can only prevent safe abortions.
- L. (2015, January 10). Abortion: Informed Consent Bill Passes Kentucky Senate. Retrieved from http://www.rcnky.com/articles/2015/01/10/abortion-informed-consent-bill-passes-kentucky-senate
- Lewis, J. J. (2015, October 21). Roe v. Wade Facts: What You Need to Know about the Decision. Retrieved from http://womenshistory.about.com/od/abortionuslegal/p/roe_v_wade.html
- Chokshi, N. (2016, April 23). Abortion doctors would lose medical licenses under new Oklahoma bill. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/04/23/this-is-our-proper-function-oklahoma-advances-measure-to-revoke-licenses-of-doctors-that-perform-abortions/
- Justia. (2016). Constitutional Law. Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/constitutional-law/docs/privacy-rights.html
- Holy Bible: New Living Translation. (1996). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.
- Goodnight, G. T. (1982). The personal, technical, and public spheres of argument: A speculative inquiry into the art of public deliberation. Journal of the American Forensic Assocation, 18.
- Sanger, Margaret. The Case for Birth Control, a Supplementary Brief and Statement of Facts. New York: Modern Art Print., 1917. Print.
- Legal infomation institute. (n.d.). Ninth Amendment. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/ninth_amendment
- Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). 8 U.S. Code § 1401 – Nationals and citizens of United States at birth. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1401
- Culp-Ressler, T. (2012, October 04). 47,000 Women Die Each Year From Unsafe Abortions. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/10/04/963901/47000-women-die-each-year-from-unsafe-abortions/
- Children’s Bureau. (n.d.). Adoption Statistics. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/statistics/adoption/
- Johnson, K. (2016, April 15). Birth control now over-the-counter in California. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/birth-control-now-over-the-counter-in-california
- Robertson, L. (2011, April 18). Planned Parenthood. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.factcheck.org/2011/04/planned-parenthood/
- Peterson Beadle, A. (2012, April 10). Teen Pregnancies Highest In States With Abstinence-Only Policies. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/04/10/461402/teen-pregnancy-sex-education/
This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.
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